Anthony Rizzo, the first piece of a Chicago Cubs core that helped the tortured club break a 108-year World Series title drought, is the first 2016 hero traded in an expected purge Thursday as the Cubs shipped their beloved first baseman to the New York Yankees.
Rizzo, who turns 32 on Aug. 8, is a free agent after this season and the Cubs will pick up the remaining $5.5 million of his 2021 salary while receiving pitching prospect Alex Vizcaino and outfielder Kevin Alcantara from the Yankees. The teams announced the deal Thursday night.
Rizzo was a Cub for the past decade, joining the club in 2011 and often serving as their emotional hub as core pieces like Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Jon Lester and others coalesced around him. He finished fourth in NL MVP voting in both 2015 and 2016, slugging 32 homers and driving in 109 runs in the Cubs’ epic run to the ’16 title.
The club had the makings of a dynasty and with Rizzo signed to a club-friendly nine-year, $75 million pact, the team continued to scale up its ambitions as owner Tom Ricketts revamped Wrigley Field and the area around it into a sprawling cash machine.
But the Cubs ultimately plateaued, losing in the 2017 NLCS and 2018 wild-card game and missing the 2019 playoffs. They won the NL Central in a shortened 2020 season behind a resurgent Yu Darvish, but the multi-billionaire Ricketts, who cited “biblical” losses during the COVID-19 pandemic, instead pared the club down.
He traded Darvish and dumped Kyle Schwarber in the off-season, signaling a rebuild was on the way. The Cubs nearly spited Ricketts, jumping out to a 38-27 record and sharing first place in the NL Central as recently as June 13.
But an 11-game losing streak that stretched into July dented their playoff hopes and absolved Ricketts of feigning to care about contending. It’s likely that Bryant and closer Craig Kimbrel will be dealt, too, before Friday’s 4 p.m. ET trade deadline arrives.
Now, Rizzo joins a Yankees club that’s suddenly flush with left-handed bats, acquiring Rizzo on the heels of landing Texas Rangers slugger Joey Gallo. It’s expected the club will try to move first baseman Luke Voit to ease a roster logjam.
Yet the Yankees’ 2021 viability is also an open question. The club sits in third place in the AL East, nine games behind Boston, and trails Oakland by three games for the AL’s second wild-card slot. Rizzo, who has 14 home runs and a .792 OPS this season, and Gallo signal that the club will try to mash its way past the Mariners and A’s into playoff positioning – if not run down the Red Sox.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Yankees get Anthony Rizzo in trade with Cubs ahead of MLB deadline